Storytelling for Business Building – Chris Brogan


He is an author, speaker, consultant, entrepreneur … and a guy who knows how to sell. Don’t think his people-centered, relationship-building approach to marketing is a “Kum Ba Yah” system, though, it’s anything but. Chris Brogan is a smart, focused, fierce capitalist. He just knows that people buy from people … not from companies.

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Watch on YouTube – Storytelling for Business Building with Chris Brogan

An On Track Tips Interview with Chris Brogan: Storytelling for Business Building

On Track Tips: Chris, you are a very busy guy. You’ve done consulting, blogging, writing, software development, and you are a keynote speaker … everywhere. You’ve said you don’t care much for consulting (but it pays nicely), and you don’t particularly like social media. So tell us, what is your biggest passion in business and life?

Chris Brogan: I am passionate about people … and I believe business is about belonging. A company’s primary obligation is to connect with the community it has the privilege to serve. Stronger business is built when the customer is central to the concept. People buy from people they like. To do business well, you must be connected with your customers in a deep way.

On Track Tips: We are here today to talk about Storytelling for business building. There is a lot of talk about storytelling, but what does it really mean? Can you break it down for us? How do you use stories for advertising, marketing, and branding? Maybe give us an example of a company, ad campaign, or commercial you think does it best.

Chris Brogan: Advertising is where we see the most storytelling — unfortunately, it usually doesn’t align with customer experience. That disconnect usually causes an issue. Advertising shows a beautiful hamburger sandwich with lettuce overflowing. Reality delivers a smashed-down mess (example from the 90’s movie, Falling Down). I love it most when companies build relationships into their advertising. Applebee’s restaurant recently asked people to talk about their new menu via Vine, for example … and it worked fabulously. Remember: YouTube is the second largest search engine on the planet. Think, “What do my customers need, and what words will they type into the search box to find the answer?” More importantly … go beyond your own product or service to offer help with RELATED information. If you sell, for example, property insurance … perhaps you could talk about “How to take the best photo of your property when you prepare to sell,” or “How to finally fix the stairs so they don’t squeak.” Be of value to those you serve. Give them a reason to talk with you BETWEEN SALES.

On Track Tips: Common examples of stories are, “How I got started in business,” “How I got to where I am today” … what are some other stories?

Chris Brogan: “How I saved the day!” Steve Jobs showed us how the new iPod worked — not by discussing how many megabytes of storage it offered, but by telling us, “You can put 1,000 songs in your pocket. You can control the party. This device makes you cool, you nerd!” You can do this story with a lot of things. Here is the five-word answer to your question: Make the buyer the hero.This is what every buyer wants. What you don’t want to hear (from your spouse, for instance) is, “Why did you buy that?” In business, the story is about saving your boss and company money and time … doing something to make the company better and the universe better.

On Track Tips: Another common statement is ”Everybody has a story to tell.” But does everyone have an interesting story to tell? And what do you do if you are not a good story teller?

Chris Brogan: Everyone does have a story, even if it is a boring story … but ANY story depends upon how it is told. Ernest Hemingway told a powerful story in six words: “Baby shoes for sale. Never used.” The most powerful storytellers use emotive, powerfully evocative words to get the reader to fill in the story. Comic books (for instance) tell stories between the panels. You don’t have to see everything; you just have to know which direction it is headed. Just a few things make a good story. For example, in Talk Like TED, Carmine Gallo said, stories must be:

  • Emotional
  • Novel
  • Memorable

If I say, “Why did Darth Vadar cross the road?” I have changed the whole thing. You will remember it. The most important part of the story is to speak to what connects the people.

On Track Tips: In your book, The Impact Equation, you use the acronym CREATE: Contrast, Reach, Exposure, Articulation, Trust, and Echo. Talk to us for a minute about “A” and “E” … Articulate and Echo. Tell us why these two are so important to storytelling.

Chris Brogan: “Articulation” is about being as concise as possible. Don’t confuse things with big words. “Shun obfuscation.” Tell it like your audience is six years old. Use short words and short sentences. With “Echo,” the story must connect with the buyer. Sell from their side of the table, not yours. Not, “This mower has a lot of power,” but “With this mower, you can get the lawn mown quickly and get back to watching the game.” With social media, you can connect DIRECTLY with your audience — something other types of media do poorly. Direct communication is the biggest Echo you can ever have.

On Track Tips: On the point of connecting, how do I make sure I am telling the right story to the right person?

Chris Brogan: You CAN say the wrong thing to the right audience. South of the Mason-Dixon line, I try not to swear, make no religious jokes, and I am conscious of what may push a button (for instance). When I was in Abu Dhabi, I was paranoid about doing something wrong. When connecting with an audience, make sure it is themselves they see in the mirror. Content marketing is weaponized storytelling.
Wrapping it up …

On Track Tips: What is “Campfire Content?”

Chris Brogan: The idea is to make great content that will gather people around it like a campfire. That’s good stuff. That is community. The campfire will give you the opportunity to sell (at some point).

Audience question: Who should be telling the story for a business — professional marketers or the business owners?

Chris Brogan: Ideally, the owner should be telling the story (unless the owner is really boring and doesn’t like humans). Marketers should be teachers — helping owners tell their story better. Every employee should be trained in marketing and media. The people who are most passionate about the story need to tell the story.

And that was the story for this week’s On Track Tips. Thank you, Chris Brogan.

To find out more about Chris — or to get started with Owner Magazine, Social Media Mastery, Blogging: The Master Class, and other business-building bonfires by Chris Brogan — just go to

About Chris Brogan

Chris is CEO of Owner Media Group, A business design company that equips business owners by showing them how to develop a vision, formulate a plan, and build a community of support to do the work they intend. Chris helps his clients communicate better and build community-minded, relationship-based business practices.

Chris has consulted with companies like Disney, Microsoft, Coke, Google, Motorola, and many more. His passion is in working with professionals (just like you) to “own your choices, own your life, and own your future.”

Chris Brogan is a New York Times bestselling author. His books include Trust Agents, Google+ for Business, The Impact Equation, Social Media 101, It’s Not About the Tights, and The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth. He lives in northern Massachusetts, where he frequently plays Minecraft with his kids.

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